Happy Spring!

After six months of rain and nasty cold, it’s still mostly cloudy and chilly to boot, but there are at least signs of life!

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The walk to the river is turning green, flowers are blooming, fruit trees have blossoms and everything is just pink green and yellow in general. Sophiapea loves all the redbuds and trees with pink flowers, and has dubbed them “pink pincess trees”–and declares it loudly any time she sees one.

At any rate, it’s encouraging to think that it will get warmer eventually and we’re at least on the home stretch towards beautiful weather!>

Prenatal Fitness: 35 weeks

Well, I’m back to share with y’all what my workouts this week consisted of.  I hit the 35 week mark early on in the week.  As the end of this pregnancy approaches, I’m finding it harder to want to workout, though I never regret it after I’m done.  Friday morning was probably the toughest decision yet.  I wanted SO badly to just skip the workout and enjoy a nice leisurely morning of reading or writing, but I told myself to just start with 10 minutes.  One 10 minutes led to another, which led to another, and it really didn’t take long to hit my 30 minute mark.  I probably could have kept going, but I have a busy day of grocery shopping and hauling my 35 pound toddler around so I opted in favor of saving a bit of energy for that 😉

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So, here goes!

Monday: I started off the week with one of the exercise videos from Blogilates workout for the day: a Bikini Blaster for AwesomeSauce Arms.  I love Blogilates, and I love her workouts of the day, but I’ve found that they incorporate a lot of Ab exercises or ab-strong poses that are incredibly difficult to do this late on in the pregnancy.

Awesome Sauce Arms was perfect though.  Arm strength that left me finding new sore muscles for a couple days 🙂

Since that was only 20 minutes, and the other Bikini Blaster workouts looked a little too bouncy or absy for this big ol’ pregnant belly, I moved on to a yoga workout by Ali Kamenova.  It was pretty compatible with the big belly.  I just made space in each pose for the belly, either by making it a wide leg stance or not taking the stretch quite as far.

Tuesday: Today I did more Blogilates.  I made it through a couple of the videos, but the Cardio dance session was just too much.  Looked fun, I gave it a go, and I’ll try it again when I’m not preggers, but my belly was not happy with all that bouncing around.  Not to mention that it was really, painfully awkward.  I mean, seriously.  Thank goodness I live out in the middle of nowhere and keep my curtains closed for my early morning workout…

did do Blogilates’ Fat Burning Cardio Warmup,

Blogilates Spring Fling Toning

and a Pop Sugar workout:  Victoria’s Secret Model: 10 Minute Circuit

Those three were all do-able with a few of my modifications.  One of my favorite modifications for jump squats or any jumping motion really, is to do a normal squat/other random exercise and power through it like I intend to actually jump, all the way to my tip-toes before coming back down.  It kicks a normal squat up a few notches, but the displacement is a lot more controllable.

Wednesday: Yoga Day.  After a couple days of cardio and strength training it felt really good to slow down and stretch out.  I did a lot of heavy gardening work in the beginning of the week, so I was feeling pretty sore from that too.  This Hatha Yoga routine by Ali Kamenova really hit the spot.  Obviously, I’m not doing any headstands, but I do like to practice getting into Crow Pose, without letting my toes leave the ground.

Thursday: Today was a Fitness Blender Day.  I love FitnessBlender!  They have so many awesome workouts, with different styles and levels of difficulty–you’ll be hardpressed to not find ANYTHING you want to try.

Friday: Today I did a few more of the Blogilates workout of the day, and a little prenatal yoga from Body Talk Daily to wind down.  I was feeling incredibly achy and sore–whether from my kinda obnoxious concoction of workouts and heavy garden work this week or just from the normal 3rd trimester aches and pains, nobody knows.  I stuck it out for my 30 minute minimum though, and that yoga at the end was fantastic.  It felt amazing.

Blogilates Heart on Fire

Blogilates Legs on Fire

Body Talk Daily Prenatal Yoga: Episode 4

So there you have it.  My workouts of the week.

BOOK REVIEW: Divergent Series by Veronica Roth

allegiantBook: Allegiant by Veronica Roth, book 3 in the Divergent trilogy

Genre: YA, Dystopian future

Allegiant is the third book in the Divergent trilogy.  I have actually read the first two books of the trilogy (Divergent and Insurgent, if you were wondering) and I thought I had posted reviews on them, only to discover upon inspection of my archives that I did not.  The silver lining to this cloud is that I’m going to attempt to give you guys a review for a trilogy rather than just the separate books.  I’ve never done this before, so bear with me, but I think this a great trilogy to give it a try for.

By now you’ve probably seen the ads for the Divergent movie that is coming out later this month, and you may have realized that it’s based on a book series.  If you haven’t read the series yet, I highly recommend that you do so before you go see the movie.  Always, always, always, read the book before you watch the movie.  Unless you’d prefer to just not know when something in the movie is inevitably screwed up from how it happened in the book.  Given the frustration that knowledge brings to bibliophiles everywhere (myself included) it suddenly occurs to me that I might be doing it wrong… whatever.  Just read the book.

Anyways.  The series begins with Divergent and we are introduced to another dystopian society–similar to other popular books like The Hunger Games, in that a historic war led to a huge change in how society functioned.  The resemblance ends there, however, as we are introduced to a society where people are split up into four factions–each with a different function in society.  The story specifically focuses on Beatrice Prior, who finds out at her choosing ceremony that she doesn’t fit into any one of the four factions.   She is something unusual, different, and widely considered dangerous.  She is Divergent.  The main focus of Divergent is showing us how she manages to fit herself into the system of factions.

Insurgent continues to follow Beatrice (now going by Tris) as she works within the crumbling society of factions.  War is about to break out between the factions, and she will need to fully embrace her Divergence to survive.

Allegiant is the last book in the trilogy.  The society of factions has been completely broken up at this point, leaving chaos and turmoil in it’s wake.  We begin to discover more about how the society came into existence, and the truth shakes Tris to her core.  This book is told from two perspectives–Tris’ as well as her love interest, Tobias.

So there’s my brief overview–I didn’t want to go too in depth, because since it’s a trilogy, too much info about the second and third books, could end up being spoilers for whichever book is preceding.

Overall, I was really impressed with how this trilogy worked altogether.  Each book adds a new element to the story, and provides some new enlightenment.  It felt very organized and well-planned.  With the Hunger Games trilogy, I ended up disappointed with the last book especially because it felt horribly rushed–like the author was just trying to tie up loose ends in a hurry and get on with it.  Everything in this series seemed intentional.  Well-oiled gears of a machine, providing forward impetus to the conclusion.

I thought the conclusion in Allegiant was stunning, especially for a YA series.  Initially, it shocked me, but the more I thought about it, the better I liked it.  It was really the only solution that could have brought the series to such a dramatic conclusion.  Sure, there are other ways Roth could have ended it, but I think any other way would have made the series a lot weaker.  So even though it seriously goes against my penchant for happy endings, I’m afraid I have to admit that I liked the ending.

Thing #2 that makes this series awesome: No love triangles between main characters!

I cannot even tell you how much I hate love triangles.  Especially teenage love triangles.  Especially in popular fiction like this.  Seriously–the love triangle is the most overused drama engine ever.  I hate it, I hate it, I hate it.   There is a romance in this series, but I am SO glad Roth seems to be one of the few YA writers left who realizes that a normal relationship has quite enough opportunity for drama, without adding in another whole person.

If you’re a parent, concerned about the level of romance your teen or preteen will be exposed to in reading this series, there is a fair amount of kissing/relationship tension in the first two books, but it is all pretty YA friendly.  In the last book, the romance ramps up a bit and it is eventually implied that they have sex.  Again, not really graphic, but the implication is certainly there, and if my kids were preteen or young teenagers wanting to read this, we would be having a discussion about it.

That was definitely the most irritating thing about the series for me, especially as a parent.  There is no need to add sex into a YA book. Period. If it’s not “age appropriate” in the movies, why on earth would it be okay to put it in a YA book that any preteen or teenager would want to read?  I won’t go into that rant here, but seriously… ugh!

Aside from that, I really enjoyed this series, and recommend you read it.  I’m reeeeeeally hoping to make it to see the movie before I have this baby, but who knows if that will happen or not.  Life of a parent 🙂

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

March Reading Goals

Since my latest trip to the library, I’ve set a few reading goals for the month of March that I’m going to share with y’all here, and then hopefully follow up on as I complete them.

Firstly, I want to start doing a weekly post of the books I’m reading to my daughter.  We typically get between five and seven books for her at our library trips and we’ve found some really great books for the young toddler age, as well as some that I would just as soon avoid for the rest of my years of young children.

Secondly, I have 4 books that I’ll be working on reading myself this month.  Of course, if I get them all done, adding more is as simple as another trip to the library, but as I enter my last full month before my second child is  due, I’m not sure whether I’ll find myself reading more as I get more tired, or less because I spend too much of Sophiapea’s naptime sleeping right along with her 🙂

On to my list.

#1. Allegiant by Veronica Roth

allegiantI FINALLY have the 3rd book of the Divergent series.  Already halfway through it, and crossing my fingers that we make it to the movies one last time before our #2 makes an appearance. Must. See. Divergent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#2. Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini

mrs_lincolns_dressmakerI love everything I’ve ever read by Chiaverini.  So happy that the local library has a selection of her books that I haven’t seen before!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#3. The American Home Front 1941-1942 by Alistair Cooke

the_american_homefrontYet another shameless indulgence of my fascination with the wwii era.  What can I say? I do love history!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#4. Never Buried by Edie Clare

never_buriedAfter my first introduction to Edie Clare’s writing in Long Time Coming, I spent some time on the kindle store and found one of her mystery series.

There you have it.  My reading goals for March.  Towards the end of the month I’ll start collecting books for baby month! Lots of opportunities for reading in the hospital and during midnight feedings! 😀

Prenatal Fitness for Free

Yesterday morning, as I trolled Youtube in search of my workout for the day, it suddenly occurred to me that as wonderful a resource Youtube can be for free fitness from home, some of y’all out there might benefit from some of the treasure troves I’ve found.  Especially if you happen to be 34 weeks (okay, ALMOST 34 weeks) pregnant and have a deep loathing for a lot of “normal” prenatal workouts.

Here’s the thing: I am pregnant, and I do have an enormous baby bump, but I am well aware of what I was capable of doing fitness-wise before pregnancy.  I wasn’t exactly running marathons, but I did 60 minutes of HIIT workouts 3 times a week, and ran a couple miles every other day.  Though there are some very real precautions that you need to take with exercise, especially later on in your pregnancy as the belly gets HUGE, I still feel capable of a good workout.  I want to sweat.  I want to be a little sore the next day.  I want to not feel like I’m necessarily losing ground on the fitness turf (read: no bye-bye arms.)  Youtube is an awesome resource for cheapskates like me who have no desire to pay for a gym membership, let alone the childcare it would require to get a decent workout in.  Unfortunately, the sheer volume of fitness videos can make it difficult to settle on one–or 3 or 4 of the shorter ones.  That, my friends, is what I’m here today to help you with.

I’m going to share with you what I did for a workout this morning, and anticipate adding more posts like this several times a week until a) I pop this kid out, or b) I’ve shared with you all my favorite fitness routines–minus the three paragraphs and counting of introduction.

Several things to keep in mind:

1. I am not a fitness trainer or a doctor.  I’ve read a lot about exercise modifications during pregnancy, and have spoken with my doctor about any concerns I have, but if you have concerns about a particular exercise, you should talk to your doctor specifically.  If something hurts or doesn’t feel right, I modify it until it’s okay, or I just don’t do the exercise.  Even so, it is entirely possible to get a good workout in, modifications necessary or not.  Use your own good judgment.

2. As I am into well into my 3rd trimester, my doctor has advised against big, jarring movements.  The belly is just too big for any of that to be comfortable anyways.  If an exercise video has jumping jacks, jump squats, or any other sort of explosive jarring motion, I modify the crap out of it.  If I include videos that I’ve had to modify exercises in, I’ll let you know in a note underneath the specific video.

3. I’ve had a lot of hip pain through the 2nd and 3rd trimesters this time around, so I try to always make hip and lower back stretching a priority.

4. I usually workout 5-6 days a week, alternating cardio/strength and power yoga.  Workout sessions will be anywhere from 30-60 minutes, depending on how much my toddler slides into my workout hour.  I make workouts a normal  part of our life, so she has specific things that she does when I’m working out, but as I’m sure you know if you have a toddler, sometimes the best laid plans go awry.

5. I use both “prenatal” workouts and normal workouts, not in any particular order or combination, but whatever I feel like doing in one day.

This is Heidi Murkoff’s What To Expect When You Are Expecting Workout presented by the YouTube channel Lionsgate BeFit.

Notes: This is a 10 minute cardio workout.  I was not impressed by its difficulty as an actual cardio workout, but it was an okay warmup.  Very low impact.  No modifications necessary.

This is a 15 minute pregnancy workout presented by the YouTube channel HASfit.

Notes: This was the real gold mine of the day.  I broke a sweat, got my heartrate up, and will probably have slightly sore arms tomorrow! It was all low-impact, but using 3 lb weights throughout kicked up the intensity.  This had the best low impact jumping jack modification I’ve ever used, and I fully intend to use it to modify any jumping jacks I encounter hereafter! No modifications were necessary, however, I did lower the wall-pushup to the edge of the couch to get a little more bang for my buck.  If you have any abdominal separation (and by 34 weeks, if you DON’T have any, you’re probably superwoman!) exercises that strain your abs do very little for you and can do more damage, which will just set you back when the baby’s out and you’re working on losing the baby tummy.  Exercises like pushups and planks can be modified by raising your hands until the little triangular pooch between your ab muscles disappears and your belly is just one big glorious beachball shape as you do the exercise.

This is Lower Back Stretches for Sciatica Pain presented by the YouTube channel FitnessBlender.

Notes: This was a great combination of stretches for the lower back and hip area, and it really did loosen up my ever-painful hip and back area.  The first exercise has you laying flat on your back, which is generally unadvised if you’re into your second trimester.  One way to modify back-lying poses is to prop your right side up on a pillow, however, I tend to feel that that gives the stretch a weird kink.  It was just a minute, and I felt the benefits outweighed the risks in my particular case.  It takes longer than a minute to wake up when I accidentally roll onto my back in the night anyways. With the shell stretch, instead of keeping my knees closed, I modified to a type of wide-legged child’s pose to accommodate the belly.  Likewise, for the standing toe touch, I simply made it a wide legged standing toe touch.  I don’t know if those modifications actually change the way the stretch works on your body, but they worked for me!

Altogether, I spent 33 minutes on these workouts, and finished out the day with a 1.5 mile walk.

BOOK REVIEW: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

the_night_circusBook: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Genre: Fantasy, Historical, Literary, Romance

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night. 

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance.

(description from goodreads)

Go get this book!  Right now!  Buy it, rent it from the library, find the kindle version, borrow it… I don’t care how you get it, I just want you to know right from the get-go that you need to read this book.  Okay.  Now that we’ve established that, I’ll attempt to give you an actual coherent review of the book, though I warn you in advance that there will probably be a lot of overly excited gushing because seriously, you guys, I loved this book.

To begin with, I had no idea what this story was about.  My library had a ‘Blind Date With A Book’ event for Valentines Day.  Basically, they wrapped a bunch of books in paper, wrote the basic genre down, and you could take your pick.  I picked one that said something about fantasy and magic, because I have no luck finding magical books on my own.  I’m serious.  Every fantasy-type book that I’ve loved has been recommended by somebody else.  Most of the magicky books I pick out myself are steady 2 or 3 stars, if they rate anything at all.  Anyways, when I unwrapped the book I was both curious and skeptical but figured I’d give it a try.

It was such a fun read.  Beautiful writing style, elegant descriptions and dialogue, and a really complex premise.  There are so many strange little details in the beginning that seem irrelevant at best, but you remember them because of how bizarre and out of place they seem.  Then, when the plot starts getting really fired up and the pieces of the puzzle start clicking, since you remember all those weird little tidbits, everything makes perfect sense.  The magic in this book is unique too–kind of a strange combination of the fanciful and intellectual.  The romance is sweet, and unusually conflicted because of the premises of ‘the game’.

If I were to make a complaint about this book, it would probably be that in the beginning, the book feels a little fragmented and confusing.  You really have to concentrate on the dates at the beginnings of chapters to make any sense of the timeline at all.  If you read it through to the end, though, I don’t think any of that will matter to you. When I finished it, I immediately wanted to read it over again–and believe me, that is a rare emotion these days.  I have so little time to read anyways, between keeping up with writing and housework and chasing my toddler around–all while becoming increasingly pregnant–that I always want to just move on to the next book, regardless of how deserving the book is of a second read-through.

So there you have it.  If you like fairy tales, light romance, the circus, and/or books that make you smile just because they’re ‘fun’ you need to read this one.  You won’t regret it.

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

 

BOOK REVIEW: A Stranger in Wynnedower by Grace Green

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000032_00033]Book: A Stranger in Wynnedower by Grace Green

Genre: Mystery

Rachel Sevier, a thirty-two year old inventory specialist, travels to Wynnedower Mansion in Virginia to find her brother who has stopped returning her calls. Instead, she finds Jack Wynne, the mansion’s bad-tempered owner. He isn’t happy to meet her. When her brother took off without notice, he left Jack in a lurch.

Jack has his own plans. He’s tired of being responsible for everyone and everything. He wants to shake those obligations, including the old mansion. The last thing he needs is another complication, but he allows Rachel to stay while she waits for her brother to return. 

At Wynnedower, Rachel becomes curious about the house and its owner. If rumors are true, the means to save Wynnedower Mansion from demolition are hidden within its walls, but the other inhabitants of Wynnedower have agendas, too. Not only may Wynnedower’s treasure be stolen, but also the life of its arrogant master.

In letting go of what she has struggled to control and hold onto, will Rachel gain more than she could have dreamed? Or will she lose everything and everyone she cares about?  (Synopsis from Goodreads)

A Stranger in Wynnedower is what I would classify as a mystery, though it was certainly not a murder mystery.  No real crimes even played a significant role in the book until the plot was well underway.  Even so, there were plenty of mysterious events and curiosities to keep my interested piqued.

Rachel was a decent character, and I practically drooled at the idea of taking inventory of an entire mansion full of historic artifacts. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve fantasized about finding a house packed full of historical costumes and furniture… granted, in those daydreams I may have been doing inventory, but it certainly wasn’t for somebody else.  All mine, baby, all mine…

The rest of the book could have been horrible and I would have still read it just for the mansion-full-of-cool-stuff aspect.  Thankfully, it wasn’t.  While it wasn’t a thriller, it was a perfectly good little mystery and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

My criticism isn’t really criticism, so much as personal skepticism or something… but the whole reason for Rachel going to Virginia in the first place seems kind of ridiculous.  What kind of full-grown adult rushes away from work and life in one city because her brother–also a full-grown adult–misses a call or two?

I have brothers, and believe me… if I ran to wherever they were every time they didn’t text or call me back I would be broke and have permanent damage to my tailbone from sitting in the car for days on end.  I’m sure there is a worst-case scenario somewhere out there, but you could fill an entire book with all the times they haven’t replied or returned a call for no reason beyond “I was busy when you called.”

Regardless, I suppose the point is that the situation fulfilled the need to get Rachel down to Virginia, one way or another.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Sunshine

It is gray in Washington in the winter.  Perhaps winters are always gray, everywhere, but somehow my memories of winter before the great Hawaiian adventure seemed more glittery.  Probably because of the snow.  Snow is very nice and glittery, bright white.  There isn’t any snow here.  We had a couple of inches, about a week before Christmas, but it melted within a day or so and we have since moved on to cold, rainy, and dark.  Dark because the sun sets at 4:30 in the afternoon.

Luckily for me though, I have two sunshines… or maybe three if you count the actual sun (I wouldn’t bother though.  Seriously.  We NEVER see it.)

When I lifted Sophiapea out of her high chair this morning I was singing that song to her.

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You are my sunshine, my only sunshine

You make me happy when skies are gray.

You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you.

Please don’t take my sunshine away.

You are my Sofi, my sweet Sophia

You make me happy when skies are gray.

You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you.

Please don’t take my Sofi away.

Believe me when I say, the grin that almost splits her face when she hears her name in the song is a thousand times brighter than the song, or my not-so-wonderful singing, and probably even the actual sun.  Though again, don’t take my word for it–we haven’t seen the sun in days.

All things considered, between my sweet Sophiapea and my Superman there’s plenty of sunshine to go around.